New Orleans. For any music lover it's a pilgrimage. A city forsaken and its people insulted and still in deep trouble but it's wonderful to be there. I went to Vaughan's in the Bywater last thursday night to see Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers for more fun than is decent and Tuesday night in the Maple Leaf with the blaring Rebirth Brass Band. Going to a dance or a gig there(I'm not talking about Bourbon Street) is to see just how good music can be, absolutely everyone having the best time they could possibly have and no bullshit of any kind. Then of course there's the food and most of all the people. You seem to remember every conversation you ever had in New Orleans with friends, taxi drivers, strangers. When you're leaving town have beignets and coffee in the Louis Armstrong airport terminal and listen to the only decent piped music you're ever likely to hear. Thus fortified, you can more easily dance through the security cafuffle, laptop out, shoes off and away from what is still sheer magic. Having said all that, will most of the people of New Orleans ever be able to return? It doesn't seem likely, and that is an incredible tragedy. There are worrying signs too, of police crackdowns on second line and Mardi Gras Indian marches. Insanity.